The Theme Stated/B Story Axis of Meaningfulness
As I put the final touches on the new book that’s coming out this fall, I am learning A LOT!
I crack the structure on 50 movies in this book — 50, ladies and germs! — and that’s a lot of sprocket holes.
But no one is more delighted by what I am finding than me!
One of the key breakthroughs I’m having is seeing the importance of Theme Stated — and how the discussion of the theme is found in the B Story.
Thanks to Naomi Beaty, who is going back and double-checking all my Theme Stated moments in each of the 50 films, I am discovering how fascinating this science of story can be.
Take The Black Stallion, for instance — a great “boy and his dog” tale. This is one about a boy and his steed. The “Theme Stated” is right there in Minute 7 when the boy’s father (Hoyt Axton) tells him the story of how Alexander tamed the wild horse, Bucepholus. “If you can ride that horse. You can have that horse,” he says as he repeats the tale. It’s what The Black Stallion is “about” — not taming a horse per se, but doing the impossible, and taking on the challenge of life in general.
Who is the B story? Mickey Rooney, the old jockey who’s retired from racing and from life. He will take the boy the rest of the way on his quest, and their relationship is all about the theme. It’s where it is discussed, and why — by movie’s end — when the boy and his horse cross the finish line of the big race, we know the race is about more than that.
It’s about doing the impossible.
Theme Stated/B Story must be addressed in your story. If your movie isn’t “about” something, why write it? And when you find out what it’s about, say it, right up front, then use the B story to talk about it. The B story is the “helper” story, and helps the heroes of the A tale transform.
I can’t wait to show how these and other components work in all the 50 movies I review. It is just delicious stuff! And we are almost ready to go!
p.s. Another GREAT workshop this weekend. And for those of you in the L.A. area, an offer from one of writers, Greg Field. Greg is putting together a Cat! group to meet on a regular basis and continue work started at the workshop. Anyone who has taken a workshop weekend is eligible. For information about when and where the L.A. group will meet, contact Greg at [email protected] or by calling him at 310.882.0581 He’s a great guy and eager to get to work!
p.p.s. Two more days and then I am on a flight to… Barcelona, Spain! I will be gone for 10 days conducting a seminar. But I will be reachable via email and yes, still blogging!
Wow, Blake. I’m a new Cat Saver here and after fifteen years of slogging along with Field, Straczynski, Viki King, and, of couse, the ever present McKee, you and your Cat theories have completely revitalized my writing. You’re book is en route to me via Amazon and until it arrives I must glean all I can from your site and blog.
Quick question (perhaps you’ve covered this in your text so forgive my possible redundancy):
I’m etching out a script right now that would fall into a PSYCHO and TAXI DRIVER mode in that the “hero” really is anything but. How do anti-heroes like a Norman Bates, Travis Bickle, and perhaps Alex from Clockwork Orange fit into this Save the Cat house of cards?
So far your process has already brought order to my somewhat chaotic tale so thanks in advance!
- Blake Snyder
Jeff, so glad you found us. I took a quick look at your site and see that you are a great movie theorist with amazing and ecclectic taste. I think you will really like the ideas you find in Cat! and Cat! 2 (out in October!) especially. Anti-heroes aren’t in my opinion. Who changes the most, who comes the farthest is usually the hero of your story. I think you are in part describing protags of the Institionalized genre I speak of in both books. “Who’s crazier, them or me?”is sort of the underlying motto of heroes of these stories and the solution is “join or burn it down” and seen even in comedies like Office Space. But I will let you decide. Thanks for the compliment and welcome!
Was it my imagination or was Shrek the Third Gladiator? Did Dreamworks just dust off heir beats from another blockbuster and move it over, shade it green and add in fart jokes? Curious to Blake’s Take. Nice name for a new column, by the way. Blake’s Take.
Blake, you must be a mind reader because the new book is exactly what I’ve been dying for.
I absolutely love Save The Cat and I never watch a movie without the beat sheet close at hand.
I believe I grasp the concept of each component of the beat sheet, as far as building a script is concerned. Though I feel I sometimes have difficulty recognizing them in a finished movie.
I think being able to view some (50!) movies through your eyes will help tremendously.
Thanks for all the hard work.
I love your books! They’ve been so helpful to me in plotting the novel I’m currently working on. I have a question about B story. I’m using “Legally Blonde” as an example since it has such a great plot and since you refer to it in your books. If Paulette Bonafonte is the “love story character,” then what is Emmett? Is he a supporting B story? Just want to make sure I am understanding these plot concepts correctly. Thank you, once again, for sharing your expertise!
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Black Stallion is one of my favourite movies.
The film’s cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel, gave our department a talk after we screened the film when I was at DreamWorks. We were about to begin production on another horse movie, Spirit.
Watch the film again and note that there is almost no dialogue in the first 45 minutes of the film, everything is told visually and through action and the story flows incredibly well. It’s much more emotional as a result.
The story can also fall into the category of being a Fairy Tale Movie.